7 Jun 2012
By The Weekly Times       

AT the start of winter the coldest season is shaping up as a difficult one for hay buyers as supplies dwindle. The volume of hay moving from farm to farm throughout southeast South Australia, Victoria and southern NSW continues to build. Hay growers are cleaning out their sheds of stocks that have been unmarketable in previous seasons.

Vetch hay from around Horsham that received multiple rain events during curing is moving to eager buyers between Casterton and Mortlake.

Though this hay tests about 7.5 units of energy and 16 per cent protein, sellers have been able to realise $140 a tonne ex-farm for their downgraded bales.

Dairy farmers between Timboon and Simpson received as much as 60mm of rain over the weekend.

This sets up a wet start to winter when most dairy farmers in the region milk through winter in order to gain higher milk prices.

Extended rotations of paddocks and lower pasture production will increase the need for supplementary feeding of roughages.

At the other end of the extreme, growers between Nhill and Kaniva received less than 12mm for May, which is less than 40 per cent of the average.

Hay growers in the west Wimmera area are struggling to complete their cropping programs.

Fortunately, as much as 15mm of rain is forecast to fall in the first half of this week.

Low production last spring and strong export demand have spurred hay prices this season.

This additional demand for hay has coincided with relatively low wheat prices.

Accordingly, the area sown to hay, particularly oaten hay, is much greater this year.

Despite the late autumn rain, there is still time for oaten hay crops.

Previous experience has shown that oaten hay crops sown in June can produce high-quality hay in October.

These crops tend not to be bulky, fibrous and low quality crops, but growing conditions all need to fit in place from now on.

Future prices for oaten hay can be influenced by the production of oaten hay in Western Australia.

Conditions have been dry in the northern part of the state’s grain belt for the past three months.

Some recent showers and rainfall forecast this week could yet be the saviour for export oaten hay in the West.

Our tables show lucerne prices are firmer again this week on the back of lower supplies and demand for high quality winter roughage.